Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Genkaku Picasso Volume 1 (and Death Note)

Let me make it no secret: I hate Death Note. You can tell me otherwise, but it will not change the fact that the series is absolutely horrible.

Wait, let me revise that.
Let me make it no secret: I love Death Note. You can tell me otherwise, but it will not change the fact that the series is absolutely wonderful.
OK, it's complicated, that there Death Note. I don't particularly mind this, as it's neat to have something this  challenging in Shonen Jump. But wouldn't it be nice for a unique and challenging SJ title to come about where I was 100% certain what my feelings about the series are? Thank you, Usamaru Furuya, for Genkaku Picasso and for answering my fervent prayers.
Genkaku Picasso follows the adventures of Hikari "Picasso" Hamura, an introverted teenage art-prodigy, has been given the odd task of helping people with their troubles with the help of his dead best friend Chiaki (who is now a teeny tiny angel), and his trusty sketchbook and 2B pencil. This is not exactly original (nor is Naruto- take note, manga newbies), but do not expect cliche. For unlike Ohba/Obata, new artists who jumped (no pun intended) straight into determined avoidance of SJ tropes, Furuya is a seasoned professional who got his start in the classic alternative magazine Garo, and uses familiar settings to create an imaginative, intelligent, and enjoyable read. The psychological issues dealt with may be stock, and the story familiar, but the execution most certainly isn't. Populated with surreal imagery that the protagonist needs to interact with just to understand, the artwork emboldens the story in ways that Takeshi Obata could only dream of. One character, Akane (and her sister Kana), parallels THAT character from Death Note, yet rather than being a misogynist cliche, we get a living, breathing, character. The one big problem is a repetitive and annoying running joke where Picasso always gets things wrong, reaching it's peak in "Vision 3: Manba and Kotone", where we go from "That perv!" to "What a nice guy, let's help him!" with little thought, but in the end that's not such a big deal, as the following chapter, "Kana's Maria", very much makes up for the previous' woes.
 Some readers (not that I have any) may be wondering why I have spent so much of this review discussing Death Note, but those who have read Death Note will certainly understand why. Both series have similar ambitions, but Furuya-sensei obviously thinks of his readers in higher regards. Whether challenging us or pandering to us, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata treat the readers like sheep, objects that don't know anything about quality but know how to dole out money, Usamamaru Furuya treats his readers with respect and balances that fine line between disposable and original that even the best of artists struggle to achieve.  Thank you, Usamaru Furuya, for Genkaku Picasso and for helping me finally confirm: I hate Death Note. Or, well, Death Note after the third volume... oh, now I'm back to square one.

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